A mere few weeks ahead of its planned August 29 reopening, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has furloughed and laid off hundreds of staffers. Today, August 5, 79 workers were laid off, 181 were furloughed, and 93 workers accepted voluntary retirement.
The museum closed indefinitely on March 13 as the city faced the looming coronavirus pandemic. In April, it laid off 81 employees and announced that director Max Hollein and president and CEO Daniel H. Weiss would accept a 20% pay cut, while 11 other museum officers would receive a 10% reduction in salary. The museum anticipates having incurred a $150 million loss in budget during the nearly six-month closure.
“We have worked to ensure that these painful staff reductions are distributed across the entire Museum so that no one area or group is taking on an outsized burden,” Weiss said in a statement to Hyperallergic. “Nonetheless, we recognize that the Museum that we will return to — whenever that may be — will be very different from what we left behind only six months ago.”
Following today’s layoffs, the Met’s staff of approximately 2,000 workers has been reduced by 20% since the start of the pandemic.
Last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo indefinitely stalled the re-opening of museums despite the launch of phase four of its coronavirus plan. Prior to Cuomo’s announcement, the Met announced its intention to reopen August 29, but this will depend on the go-ahead from government officials. Upon reopening, the museum will operate under a reduced schedule.
On Monday, August 3, just days before the public announcement of layoffs, the MMA Collective Action Working Group — a group of current Met employees — sent a letter to museum administrators demanding greater transparency and protection for workers. The groups warned against a second wave of layoffs, which were announced days later, describing them as the result of the museum’s “irresponsible leadership and its lack of real investment in supporting its staff.”